Updated: Jun 8
Kentucky has many diverse native plants well-suited to spread and cover your soil.
In this post, we'll explore 9 Kentucky native ground cover plants that are both beautiful and practical.
From wildflowers to sedges, these plants are sure to enhance the natural beauty of your garden while providing essential benefits for the environment.
Let's dive in!
Why Use Ground Cover Plants?
Using ground cover plants offers many benefits, including reducing erosion, suppressing weeds, conserving soil moisture, enhancing soil fertility, and providing habitat for beneficial insects and wildlife.
Ground cover plants can also be a low-maintenance, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable "green mulch," making them a practical and attractive alternative for the garden or landscape.
Kentucky Native Ground Cover Plants
Many plants can be a Kentucky native ground cover. This list will focus on the ones you can typically find at native plant nurseries. Consider adding some to your garden as you scroll through. To see which ecoregion you live in, visit our Kentucky ecoregion article.
1. Wild Strawberry
Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) is a low-growing, perennial ground cover plant native to all regions of Kentucky. This hardy plant features bright green leaves and small white flowers that bloom in the spring and summer months, followed by edible red fruit in late summer. Wild strawberry is an excellent choice for gardeners looking to attract pollinators and wildlife to their gardens while also enjoying a tasty and nutritious treat.
2. Common Blue Violet
Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia) is another popular ground cover plant native to Kentucky. It is known for its striking purple-blue flowers that bloom in early spring, making it an excellent addition to any garden seeking to add early-season color. This plant spreads by rhizomes and can eventually form large colonies that cover the ground.
3. Wild Ginger
Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) is a native ground cover plant that grows well in the shaded areas of Kentucky. This plant is known for its heart-shaped leaves and small, bell-shaped maroon flowers that bloom in early spring, making it a visually appealing addition to gardens. In addition, Wild Ginger has a long history of use in traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
4. Pennsylvania Sedge
Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvanica) is a native grass-like plant becoming an increasingly popular ground cover option in Kentucky gardens. This plant features fine-textured leaves that form a lush, dense mat, providing excellent soil stabilization and erosion control. Pennsylvania Sedge is also drought-tolerant and requires minimal maintenance. It is ideal for gardeners seeking a low-maintenance yet visually appealing ground cover.
5. Allegheny Spurge
Allegheny Spurge (Pachysandra procumbens) is a shade-loving, native ground cover plant commonly found in the woodlands of Kentucky. This plant produces fragrant white flowers in early spring, followed by striking green leaves, and can eventually form a dense carpet. Allegheny Spurge is a popular choice for gardeners seeking to add a native ground cover to their shaded areas. In addition, it is an excellent option for underplanting native shrubs.
6. Celandine Poppy
Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) is a beautiful native plant that adds a pop of bright yellow to Kentucky gardens in the spring. This ground cover plant features lobed leaves and delicate, showy flowers that attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. Celandine Poppy is an excellent choice for gardeners seeking to add a touch of wild beauty to their gardens while covering their soil.
7. Obedient Plant
Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) is a versatile native plant that can be grown as a ground cover or in more traditional garden beds. This plant produces showy spikes of pink, white, or purple flowers that bloom mid-to-late summer, attracting hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies to the garden. A flashy member of the mint family, it swiftly spreads through rhizomes to cover the soil and control the growth of weeds.
8. Soft Rush
Soft Rush (Juncus effusus) is a native grass-like plant that grows well in the wet soils of Kentucky. This plant features cylindrical stems with brown flowers that appear in summer. Soft Rush is an excellent choice for gardeners seeking to stabilize wetland areas or add visual interest to water features. In addition, it is known for covering the ground and providing habitat for water-loving wildlife.
9. Blue Mistflower
Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) is a native perennial that produces a profusion of blue-purple flowers in late summer and early fall, attracting bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to the garden. It is an excellent colonizing ground cover known for its aggressive ability to spread in moist soils. You can thin it in early spring to control its spread on smaller sites, but it's best suited for areas where it can spread.
Many beautiful and practical native ground cover plants can thrive in Kentucky's climate and soil.
From wildflowers to sedges, these plants provide a range of benefits for both gardeners and the environment.
By incorporating these native plants into our gardens, we can create a sustainable and biodiverse landscape that supports local wildlife and promotes the natural beauty of our state.
Give them a try in your garden and see the difference they can make.